"They made me feel like a King!"

We set him up! He's 85 years old, he's homeless, he's tiny, he's fragile and he doesn't speak English; this made him easy to set up.

I walked up to the table where Humberto was playing dominoes with Elihud and Richard, and simply said; "it's time!" Richard faked he'd had enough of the game and instantly quit! Elihud told Humberto (in Spanish) he needed to show him some important papers and off they went to his room.

Josh, Darrell and I rallied. We set up the table on 4th floor, with 2 massive balloons, a sheet cake and a case of root beer. We ran around and gathered other clients and staff. A large youth group of volunteers were working on the floor, so we got them together also. And, of course, there was Uptown's own famous Stewart Brown.

It was time. Elihud brought Humberto through the door and this huge group of gathered individuals started singing "happy birthday!" The look on his face was priceless; he stood there wide-eyed, wondering what was happening. He was stunned, he was confused, he was amazed, he stared at the mass of people thinking they were hooping and hollering at someone else. Elihud whispered into his ear "this is for you, they're singing happy birthday!" A little grin came onto his face. He was totally and utterly surprised.

We escorted him to his chair, I cut him a piece of cake and poured him a cup of root beer. The crowd that surrounded him represented a host of ages, nations, colors and races. A kid came and shook his tiny hand, meanwhile a known gangster gives him a big hug and this older gentleman gently slaps him on the back, all wishing him a happy birthday. He doesn't know a lick of English, but he could feel the love! Everyone up on 4th floor feasted on the huge cake and marveled at how good he looks for being 85, while trying to learn his secret to a long healthy life.

Gradually everybody left, and being overwhelmed by the ordeal, he just wanted to chill by playing another game of dominoes: this time against Elihud and myself. Sandy came up, so we told him that she'd brought the cake and balloons. With a humble show of respect and thanks, he stands up and gives her a hug. As we played, Humberto would occasionally utter a few quiet words in Spanish looking rather teary eyed or he'd have a small grin come over him. With all the phrases Elihud would interpret for me, the one that touched me the most was: "they made me feel like a King!"

The whole party was humbly beautiful. It made his day! It made his year! There was this gleam of happiness that shone over Humberto that lasted beyond his "today" and into his "tomorrow." He just couldn't believe what happened! We'd somehow made this 85 year old homeless foreigner feel like a king!

Click here to see photos of the surprise party from my facebook page

Now, to digress a little. Many may be reading this and have naturally started thinking, he's too old and fragile to be living in a homeless shelter. His homelessness dampers the excitement of the whole party; shouldn't there be someone or some program that should be housing and supporting this elderly gentleman? I most definitely agree! But, my purpose here is not to get into the politics and ethics of how this senior citizen (I could name many more) ended up alone, homeless and without income.

Humberto shuffled into our lives, when a fellow homeless Guatemalan brought him to us so we could house him. They didn't know each other, but he had discovered Humberto "out there" and knew he desperately needed help. This "good Samaritan" quickly got employed and housed, and vanished from our lives.

It's hard not to like Humberto; he's drug and alcohol free, he's tiny, he's hard working, he's always smiling, he never complains, whenever he gets a little cash he loves to give little gifts, he's addicted to dominoes and, every day, he quietly proves what a trooper as he is, as struggles up 4 flights of stairs.We are his family and he is now loved by young and old at Cornerstone, and especially those who reside on the 4th floor.

There is unusual truth that resonates in Humberto's story. Due to his circumstances, I couldn't think of a better place for him to be right now. We have a hefty number of gentlemen over 65 who stay with us, and we have become their family; often their only family. I would rather Humberto (or Walter, Felipe, Angel, Charles and many others) be living in our homeless shelter, than rotating in and out of emergency shelters, trying to survive on the streets, cooped up in a Nursing Home, or even, existing alone in a SRO. I doubt some of them would even be alive today living under those different circumstances. These fragile old men continually receive a priceless gift by living in CCO, and that gift is not given by me or my fellow staff......
.....that priceless gift is community and fellowship, which so many and too many, senior citizens unfortunately fail to receive at the end of their long lives! Humberto; you have received this gift, and in your poverty, you're loving it!
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